10 Television Side Characters So Good They Needed Spin-Offs Shows
10. Better Call Saul
While not formally introduced into the Breaking Bad world until the second season, Saul Goodman
becomes an indispensable and charismatic character who helps push the story forward with his
shrewd and sometimes dirty legal tactics. Not only does he help Walter and Jesse Pinkman
out of difficult situations, but he sets up a meeting with Gus Fring – the biggest meth
distributor in the Southwest. Saul Goodman’s character is played by Bob Odenkirk, who uses
his comedic background to create a funny, well-rounded character.
Like many of the shows’ fans, Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, loved the character
and pitched the idea of Better Call Saul. The show is set six years before Saul introduced
to Walter White, when the up and coming lawyer is trying to make a name for himself by defending
his clients and doing anything to not end up in court. The show has been met with critical
acclaim, and the highly anticipated second season premiered last night.
9. Colbert Report
Before he had his own show, Stephen Colbert was capturing the audience’s attention and
their laughs on The Daily Show. Colbert started on the show in 1997 and actually pre-dated
Jon Stewart, who took over hosting duties in 1999. Over the course of his time at The
Daily Show, Colbert developed different characters for his pieces, describing one of them as
“a fool who has spent a lot of his life playing not the fool – one who is able to
cover it at least well enough to deal with the subjects that he deals with.” The character
he developed on The Daily Show spawned the creation of his own television show The Colbert
On the show, Stephen Colbert satirizes conservative Cable Television pundits, showing the absurdity
of their views and stances. The show ran from October 2005 to December 2014 and had tremendous
success, winning many awards and the hearts of millions of American viewers. Colbert’s
great success led to his succession of David Letterman on CBS.
8. The Cleveland Show
Unarguably, one of the most successful animated shows of all time is Family Guy, and its great
success led to a spin-off called The Cleveland Show. Cleveland Brown is one of Peter Griffin’s
friends and one of the few black characters on Family Guy. His calm and peaceful personality
despite all the madness around him made him a particularly beloved character for many
The spin-off was created by first showing Cleveland getting a divorce in Family Guy,
which led him to go off on his own way with new family. The Cleveland Show aired from
September 2009 to May 2013; its cancellation led to Cleveland returning again as a staple
character in Family Guy.
7. Good Times
One of the most famous shows on our list is Good Times, which was a spin-off of the highly
successful show Maude. The character of Florida, played by Esther Rolle, was extremely popular
in her role as housekeeper to Maude. On the show, Florida quits her job after her husband
receives a raise which allows her to be a full-time mother. The origin of Good Times
revolves around this decision and the family’s struggle living in low-income Chicago neighborhood.
While the show was initially supposed to deal with more serious issues, things changed thanks
largely to the great popularity of the J.J. character, played by Jimmie Walker. The phrase
“dy-no-mite” became a catchphrase that Esther Rolle and John Amos, her co-star, said
consumed the show. Both alleged that the writers transitioned away from creating a meaningful
show to heightening the ridiculous of the J.J. character. Nevertheless, Good Times lasted
for six seasons with over 130 episodes. As you’ll see with another entry on our list
coming up shortly, side characters with catchphrases can consume shows, for better or worse.
6. The Jeffersons
A theme of our list is certainly that iconic shows seem to breed or provide the environment
for supporting characters to get their own opportunities in leading roles. The trend
continues with The Jeffersons with several of the show’s characters appearing in All
in the Family until 1975 when they were given their own show. In similar fashion, Edith
Bunker of All in the Family gave a tearful goodbye to her neighbors which signified their
final appearance on the show.
ADVERTISEMENT A precursor to the Cosby Show, the Jeffersons
were an affluent couple living in New York City. The show lasted for eleven seasons,
producing more than 250 episodes. Despite its great success, the show ended in controversy.
Network executives cancelled the show without filming a series finale, leaving many actors
to learn the news of the show’s cancellation in the tabloids. Even with this abrupt ending,
the show’s legacy includes a spin-off show in its own liking.
5. Family Matters
If you couldn’t figure it out, this is the show we were referring to with regard to J.J.
on Good Times, with a colorful side character spewing catchphrases derailing the original
intent of a show. A show that is probably universally known amongst our readers, if
the title is not immediately familiar, its iconic character Steve Urkel surely should
ring a bell. Henriette and Carl Winslow, the main characters on Family Matters, were introduced
on a show called Perfect Strangers. It was the popularity of Henriette’s character
that led to a spin-off series.
Somewhat similar to The Jeffersons, the introduction of Steve Urkel soon changed the course of
the show as his great popularity led to the series being based around him. Family Matters
would go on to become more successful than its parent show, lasting for nine season and
producing more than 200 episodes.
One of the wealthiest television actors in recent memory, Kelsey Grammar, rode the great
success of the show Cheers to another popular sitcom in Frasier. Frasier Crane was a regular
on Cheers, and stayed as a recurring cast member until the show’s cancellation. Afterwards,
Frasier Crane, a psychiatrist, gives up custody of his son and moves to Seattle, the setting
for the show.
The premise of the show is that the newly single Frasier is going to try life anew,
but is forced to take in his father – a police officer who needs a caregiver after
being shot while on duty. Frasier is seen as one of the most successful spin-off shows
of all time, winning a total of thirty-seven Primetime Emmy Awards during its eleven year
3. Boston Legal
Another actor that has a long standing role on major network television is James Spader.
The growing popularity of legal dramas led to this spin-off of The Practice and the creation
of a show based around Spader’s character, Alan Shore. A compelling character because
of his dubious ethical standards and checkered past; Shore was an ideal character to use
in a spin-off. Boston Legal also featured the likes of William Shatner and lasted for
five seasons, airing just over 100 episodes.
In its final season, Boston Legal was nominated for seven Emmys, including Best Drama Series.
And while Boston Legal has been gone for awhile, James Spader has managed to find his way back
on network television in a starring role once more, in The Blacklist.
2. Private Practice
One of the many hit television shows that Shonda Rhimes created includes Private Practice
that followed the life of Dr. Addison Montgomery, played by Kate Walsh, as she leaves Seattle
Grace Hospital so she can join a private practice that is located in Los Angeles. One of the
most polarizing characters on Grey’s Anatomy, Kate Walsh’s character is a neurosurgeon
that many of the shows fans loved to hate. As she moves to a new hospital, the show chronicles
the difficulties adjusting to a new environment and staff.
Playing off the popularity of its parent show, Rhimes and the executives used crossover episodes
to garner viewership, but ultimately the show would not come close to matching the success
of Grey’s Anatomy. However, Private Practice did last for six seasons, producing more than
Who would have guessed that a spin-off of the sitcom of all sitcoms would turn out so
poorly? Friends was one of the most popular television shows of all time and is the last
sitcom to reach the number one spot on television. The series finale was watched by 52.5 million
Americans. You’d think that the American public that was so sad to see it go, would
be excited for a spin-off with arguably the show’s most popular character.
Despite being heavily promoted and being given the Friends timeslot, Joey had decreasing
viewership until it was cancelled after the second season. The character of Joey, played
by Matt LeBlanc, continued his womanizing character from Friends, but the stiff competition
from the likes of American Idol resulted in the show being the worst rated primetime program.